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Outstanding senior: Jack’s road to happiness

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Jack Fraser (Photograph supplied)

Jack Fraser was 17 the first time he saw a car.

It was an Austin 8, and joy of joys, he was able to sit in it.

The challenge came when he was finally allowed to take the wheel a year later.

Automatic cars weren’t around then. To get a stick shift licence required a complicated manoeuvre with the wheel, clutch and handbrake at the crest of a hill.

“It took me a little while to learn because at that time the test was very hard,” said the 83-year-old.

“It was hard but I passed the first time. I made sure I understood and I did it right.”

His early challenges gave him empathy for the hundreds of people he later taught to drive.

Mr Fraser opened Jack’s Driving School in 1987, and ran it for 18 years.

“Sometimes I’d be out there in the car with a student,” he said. “Everything would be going fine, then suddenly they’d see a truck up ahead, panic and completely take their hands off the wheel.”

He’d calmly step in, pull the handbrake or put his foot on the instructor’s brake.

“None of my students ever had an accident while out with me,” he said. “I always paid close attention to what they were doing.”

He retired 12 years ago, to let his son Andrew take over.

“I suggested he change the name of the business, but he said he would leave it,” said Mr Fraser.

Former students come up to him all the time to say hello; he admitted he doesn’t always remember everyone.

“I have one lady who always says, ‘There’s my driving instructor!’”

He grew up in Parsons Road in Pembroke. His father, George Fraser, was a tailor and his mother, Neletha Attride, was a housewife.

At 15, he joined the Dockyard Apprenticeship Scheme to study plumbing.

“I spent two years there and then they decided to close,” he said. “Then we all wondered what would happen to us.”

He and 55 others were able to further their studies at the Dockyard in Portsmouth.

When he arrived in England, in September, 1950, there was still some rationing going on because of Second World War.

“We were allowed one egg a week,” he said. “Bacon and candy were also rationed.”

Dealing with the cold was also rough, although he earned overtime fixing burst pipes.

“I came to love it though,” he said. “That gave me a little bit of extra money for cigarettes. I smoked back then.”

When he returned to Bermuda in 1955, his future wife Oriel was in the crowd on the Hamilton dock.

“I didn’t see her, but later she said she noticed me,” he said. “She said, ‘I wonder who this guy is?’ I went to a dance in Somerset for the apprentices and she was there. We danced and that was it. We dated for just over a year.”

They celebrated their 60th anniversary last April at Fourways Inn.

“They’ve been good years,” Mr Fraser said.

The couple have two children, Andrew and Angela, and four grandchildren.

After six years working as a plumber, Mr Fraser became a prison officer. “They were looking for trades’ people to join the service,” he said. “They wanted to teach the prisoners some education in different trades.

“I had three people and out of those three, one was doing ten years in prison. He was able to pick up the trade real good. When he was released he was able to do a bit of plumbing on the outside.”

He retired in 1987 as Assistant Commissioner of Prisons.

“It was a difficult job,” he said. “We had to deal with hardened criminals who were in and out of prison.

“Some were anti-authority and didn’t want to obey the rules. Sometimes we’d have to put them in a dark cell area for a couple of nights so they understood they had to do as they were told.”

He needed to work once he’d retired. As he’d already been teaching driving in his spare time, he opened Jack’s Driving School.

“I thought if I could handle working in prisons, I could handle anything,” he said.

Today, he loves being outdoors in his vegetable garden and singing in the choir at St James Church.

“I can’t do as much as I used to because I had surgery on my lower back,” he said. “My son and grandson get the ground ready for me. I have flowers out front.”

He is most proud of his children.

“They are always ready to do something for me, and they get upset when I do it myself,” he said. “Those two children have been really good and I love them dearly.”

Lifestyle profiles senior citizens in the community every Tuesday. To suggest an outstanding senior contact Jessie Moniz Hardy: 278-0150 or jmhardy@royalgazette.com. Have on hand the senior’s full name, contact details and the reason you are suggesting them.

Quieter life: Jack Fraser relaxes in his garden as he enjoys his retirement (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)
Jack Fraser admiring one of his flowers (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)
Jack Fraser (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)
Jack Fraser (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)